Sacraments – An outward ritual or sign that expresses an inner spiritual experience. They make visible for believers a special gift of grace from God. It is something that an individual believer can hear, see, taste or touch but that also provides an inner spiritual reality.
Roman Catholic Christians and some Anglican Christians accept seven sacraments:
- Holy Communion
- Holy Orders
- Annointing the sick
Protestant Christians generally only accept two sacraments as they are the two that were demonstrated by Jesus that of baptism and communion.
Baptism is the sacrament by which people become members of the Christian Church. It may be considered the most important sacrament as virtually all forms of Christianity carry it out. As well as welcoming a person into the Church it also marks how sins are forgiven and they enter into a new life with Christ. They receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
“As soon a Jesus was baptised, he came out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, with whom I well pleased” (Matthew 3: 16-17)
Jesus’ baptism set an example for his followers to be baptised in order to receive the Holy Spirit.
The first Christians were usually baptised as adults. Today, many Christian denominations practice infant baptism.
Roman Catholics and Anglican Christians baptise babies using blessed water from a font poured over the head three times. In the Orthodox Church a naked baby is fully immersed in the font.
The words “I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” are said. This is called the Trinitarian formula.
Other symbols are often used such as making the sign of the cross on the baby’s forehead, anointing with oil, dressing the child in white and giving the parents a candle lit from the Paschal candle (a large candle blessed and lit every year at Easter)
Christians who carry out infant baptism would say that it is important as all humans are descended from Adam and Eve and have inherited the flaw of the original sin of their disobedience in the Garden of Eden. Infant baptism helps to cleanse the original sin that all are born with.
Many Christians think that a baby is too young to understand the meaning of baptism and struggle with the notion that a newborn baby has been born sinful. These Christians would say that people should be baptised when they are old enough to make a mature decision about their faith. Baptism does not in itself save a person, it is the change to living a life dedicated to Christ which is important.
Believers’ baptism involves full immersion in a pool just as Jesus was immersed in the River Jordan by John the Baptist and the rising up out of the water in a new life in Christ.
The minister will talk about the importance of baptism and ask candidates if they are willing to change their lives. The minister will go into the pool with the individual and baptise them ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’